Pace

10+ Year Member
May 7, 2006
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Medical Student
Greetings all,

I am gearing up for the application process. I have above average scores/grades but very limited research experience (no publications, non-path-related). Are there any stories (residents out there) of folks scoring a competitive residency with a similar background?
Please don't tell me to search to old forums...the info is outdated and a pain in the ass to sift through.

Thanks,
 

b&ierstiefel

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10+ Year Member
Jul 9, 2004
11,787
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In a van down by the river.
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Pace said:
Greetings all,

I am gearing up for the application process. I have above average scores/grades but very limited research experience (no publications, non-path-related). Are there any stories (residents out there) of folks scoring a competitive residency with a similar background?
Please don't tell me to search to old forums...the info is outdated and a pain in the ass to sift through.

Thanks,
Interesting...another MD/PhD resident and I were having this very discussion the other day.

Here's the thing. The far majority of MD applicants do NOT have extensive research experience. Now, let's look at the MD/PhD applicant pool. The number of folks who are admitted into MD/PhD programs are significantly higher these days than let's say 10 years ago.

Yeah, so what does that mean? Well, I would say that in the next several years you will see a jump in the numbers of folks graduating from MD/PhD programs. It's happening already. But let's take a close look at the pool of folks who do graduate from MD/PhD programs. My friend believes that 90% (his quote, not mine) of MD/PhD graduates are not serious about doing research close to full time or full time these days. There are many reasons for this. The funding situation for research, especially basic science research, is pretty grim nowadays. Prominent PI's have commented on how this generation of aspiring researchers represent a "lost generation". Acquiring funding is competitive more than ever now with the tanking NIH budget for research. So the research-track is very risky at the present moment. People who stick with it absolutely love it. Folks who are lukewarm about research basically bail.

Hence, you will see the majority of MD/PhD graduates go into your more lucrative, competitive fields. Why? Because they can. They are extremely competitive applicants. And because they can, they do! Competitive fields are popular because they are lucrative and offer a great lifestyle. And remember, MD/PhD graduates are cognizant of practical life issues such as family and lifestyle because they are much older and many of them quickly lose the idealism that they once had when they had in their early 20's when they were applying to MD/PhD programs to begin with.

Now let's take pathology. Pathology is sold as a field with great research appeal. Pathology residency is relatively short in that one can "short-track" and go do a postdoc pretty quickly with minimal clinical training. But who's going to do this? The 10% who still absolutely love research. Doing minimal clinical training in pathology really doesn't make you all that marketable especially if you're thinking of private practice. So the "backup plans" associated with minimal pathology training are far more limited than let's say if you did something like rad onc or derm. The others fall into two categories:

(a) Were very productive during grad school, have no reason to be cynical, but realize in the long run, that they don't want to write grants all the time and deal with the pressures and politics of research. Remember, grad school is a "protected" research experience. You get a stipend and all you need to do is write your thesis to graduate....your PI provides grant money to fund your research and you have a thesis committee and your boss to guide your work.

(b) Those who had frustrating experiences during grad school and want absolutely nothing to do with research.

So what do they do? They adopt "salvage mode" and go into something that pays a lot of money and offers a great lifestyle. I have absolutely no issues with this. Trust me, if I fell into one of the above two categories, I would do the same. After all the work that goes into getting the dual degree (which frequently leads to burnout), who would want to go into a field where the pay is minimal but requires you to work your tail off? It's called being practical and realistic.

So this has two implications...

(a) The MD/PhD folks who absolutely love research, have impressive track records, and go into pathology because of the research appeal and the ability to short-track represent an extremely limited and finite pool and will be sought after by many, if not all programs.

(b) People who don't have much research experience need not to fret. There are plenty of spots in pathology and there is enough room for you.
 

b&ierstiefel

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10+ Year Member
Jul 9, 2004
11,787
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In a van down by the river.
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yaah said:
So you're saying if someone wants to be competitive for path, they should do MD/PhD even if they don't want to do research?

;)

Damn. Should have just waited for someone to SERIOUSLY ask that question :laugh:
Ha! My answer is no. Clearly. Obviously.

To do so would be quite overboard. If planning residency is the major impetus for doing MD/PhD, that is quite stupid if the person has no intent on doing research.

Of course, if you wanna go into derm, rads, or rad onc, sure go ahead and do the dual degree thing (being completely sarcastic). But still, you have to do well in medical school and can't exclusively rest on your PhD laurels (i.e., publications and achievements) to get into these fields. So what's the bloody point in doing the PhD then? You still have to get honors in medical school and rock Step 1 to be uber-competitive for these fields.

Plus, dude, people have asked the question in the past.